Living Data

Living Data

Evolving conversations  

University of Technology, Sydney Main Entrance Foyer, 3 Sept 2014 - 20 Nov 2014
In Ultimo Science Festival, Sydney3-12 Sept 2014

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  Sue Fenech

Two things I have always loved doing are looking down microscopes and drawing.

Sue Fenech Fresh water microorganisms
Two drawings from a folio of over 40 studies of organisms viewed through microscopes
Left. from Passive Lake, NSW, 10 August 1988
Right. from Slow Lake, NSW, 7 March 1989

 

Story:

I first fell in love with looking down a microscope in high school. We had a nun that use to take us down the local creek to collect water then bring back to the labs and look at it under the microscope. This opened up a whole new world that was exciting and new. This got me hooked and I knew that this is what I wanted to do.

The thing that really fascinates me is the shape of different organisms and how they move around (that is, if they would stay still long enough). I would always take two samples - one that I would fix with a preservative and the other one that was kept live and put into the fridge. I couldn't wait to see what was in the live samples, the algae, what was moving and how others were attached to debris. I like them all but Diatoms and the Dinoflagellates are my favourite - they really are beautiful.

As part of my job here at UTS for the past 30 years I have had many opportunities to collect specimens, have a look at them under the microscope and document what I have seen. In the early days before computers and digital media I spent many hours peering down the microscope and drawing what I saw. This was done to help identify the different phytoplankton and keep a record of what we found. The lakes that these specimens came from were sampled regularly over several years so it was a way of capturing what we had seen and how the population was changing over time. I was mainly looking at the shapes of the different phytoplankton and their distinguishing features like stripes, ridges, girdles etc. I knew some of the species but those that I did not know I tried to draw as much detail as I could to help with the identification late on.

Sue Fenech, 2014
Affiliation(s): University of Technology, Sydney
Contact: Sue Fenech, email: Susan.Fenech@uts.edu.au